Meanwhile

Music drifts down from between wooden beams above. The song that’s playing is slow and sweet, and, if you were to ask me, just a touch too soft. I strain my ears, hoping for a lyric that’ll stick.

What I gather, mostly, is the happy chorus of people not-at-work. People laughing, talking, scraping back chairs. Trading one newspaper page for another. Lifting mug to mouth. Returning cup to saucer. Crunching through toast. (Thickly sliced, with avocado arranged just so, a slug of fruity olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, a shower of crushed chili flakes, a pinch of Jacobsen salt. $6.)

It smells predominantly like coffee. But every now and then, a warm wave of cinnamon and yeast unfurls from the great big oven stationed at the back of the house. I swivel in my stool and think of the breads my mother used to make: oatmeal molasses, honey whole wheat, 3-cheese, rosemary focaccia, sesame seed. Feel my throat constrict, my heart squeeze.

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It is warm enough for windows open. Warm enough to have jumped on the cherry blossom bandwagon this week, 3x.

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I’m going to write about something sad, but I don’t feel that way now. How I feel now is better. Much better.

(Time will do that. Coffee with a friend will do that. Overpriced artisanal toast in a window all by yourself will do that.)

You already know where I go on Tuesdays at 5. Across the street and into the house with the stair that creaks, the sofa that hugs, and the woman who gets me to cry, if we succeed.

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We’ve spent the last several sessions circling the same few things, not changing. Afterwards, each time, I’ve headed home to make dinner feeling neither noticeably better nor significantly worse.

I like to feel as if we have gotten somewhere. I do not like to feel as if the dam has been broken. [Permanently, irrevocably, with no hope for repair.]

During the week, it’s hard for me to tap into the difficulty of the weekend. Work is an enormous distraction. And so I stay late, work extra. Avoid the quiet I know is waiting for me at home.

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The quiet and the sameness. Which, ironically, is the very thing I crave.

I’m finding there are certain words that make my eyes fill with tears. It doesn’t matter where I am or who I happen to be with. It’s automatic. And if someone is too nice — forget it, game over.

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My therapist is excruciatingly nice. Except for when she’s helping me identify those things that elicit a visceral reaction — a longing so intense it makes my stomach clench. (Then I don’t enjoy her company quite as much.)

We have a running joke at work about significant touches. How many psychologists say you need in a day in order to be happy, and that kind of thing. I laugh too, I may have even started the joke, but I have none. None in my life right now. The last person to touch me was my hair stylist, when she massaged my scalp before shampooing my hair. I should go back; that alone was worth the $70 + tip.

I had no idea touch was so important. I mean I knew, but I didn’t really get it. Even with all of the progress I’ve made over the last 16 months, I’ve been disconnected from my body for longer than I’ve been connected to it.

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According to science, a supportive touch says, “I’ll share the load.” And isn’t that what we all want?

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That’s what I’m missing in Oregon. [In my life.] THAT is what I am hungry for. My therapist asked if I felt like she was someone who could help me hold everything, hold it all, and I felt the tears well up again, even as I nodded and laughed and hiccupped my way through but I pay you. It’s not quite the same.

She’s very expressive, my therapist. One of those people who talks with their hands. I wished she could give me a hug. Wished that wouldn’t cross an uncrossable line. She looked at me gently and said: “You know, a prescription doesn’t mean a failing grade in life management.”

I cried openly then, freely. Until I was too tired to cry anymore. And then I asked, “What will I do now?” And she replied: “Now you will go home and forget about the single [sad] egg you’d planned on eating tonight. [I don’t care about the arugula, the farro, the leftover vegetables, the capers, the flavored almonds.] You will make something bigger, better, and infinitely more comforting, and then you will take a nice long bath, which will prove to you that you are capable of feeling much better than this.”

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“You are a smart girl. No one is going to hand you a medal at the end of all of this because you ran harder and faster than anyone else. The point is to enjoy it. Enjoy everything. That’s the end game. Don’t let your days be measured out in tasks that must be checked off. The day shouldn’t end when you’ve run out of energy to check even one more box. That’s not how you should know it’s time to pass out and start again the next morning.” -Unknown

“This poem is a telegram to let you know that / I still think about you / I’m still proud of you / and when I remember you, I always remember you / as beautiful.” -Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

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“Love me from the same place you write from.” -Myss Bradley

“Life happened. In all its banality, brutality, cruelty, unfairness. But also in its beauty, pleasures, and delights. Life happened.” -Thrity Umrigar

“I think the thing about missing someone is that it’s not constant.
 
You can go without thinking about them for days, weeks, months, years. And then you can breathe a familiar smell or read just the right sentence in a book and it can hit you so suddenly that you’re left reeling and disoriented, as if you’ve only just been abandoned, except when you look around, you’re in a place you’ve been many times before. It can hurt right in the center of your stomach, like you’ve swallowed your weight in regret. Or it can be as small as a buzz right by your ear that you take only a second to acknowledge before swatting it away.
 
What I know is that missing someone is humbling; it causes you to admit that you are not a solitary force in this world. When I say, ‘I miss you,’ I’m saying that I’ve discovered a moment in my life where your absence was evident. I’m admitting that I can’t do certain things without thinking about you, and who you are, and the memories we have. And while I’ve been made to believe I should apologize for that…I won’t. I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you, I love you too much for that.” -Unknown

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“One makes mistakes; that is life. But it is never a mistake to have loved.” -Romain Rolland

“The ability to sit down with another person and talk for hours and hours, about anything and everything, is [far] more attractive to me than anything else.” -Koi Fresco

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“I know you’re tired, but come. This is the way.” -Rumi

“There are two types of ‘tired.’ One is a dire need of sleep; the other is the dire need of peace.” -Unknown

“I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome, and my beauty is not beauty here.” -Warsan Shire

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“I wanted to scream, to weep. I wanted to drag my hand across the world and wipe it all away.” -Naomi Novik

“The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.” -C.G. Jung

“I put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be.” -Stephen Chbosky

“It’s hard to love someone, I’ve found, when you’re preoccupied with holding your entire world firmly in place. Loving someone requires a certain amount of malleability, a willingness to be pulled along, at least occasionally, by another person’s will.” -Molly Wizenberg

“Nothing about this day needs to be perfect.” -Brooke Castillo

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“I love rawness so much. Falsely started sentences, misspelled words, things that you cannot say, that you have no words for. The way a person’s voice cracks up when he sings. The way you see wrinkles beneath the eyes of someone older each time she smiles. It makes me believe that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s fine. Good, even. The honest, unfiltered stuff — is good.” -Rej Jaen

“Things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.” -Hanya Yanagihara

@meganjgordon

“There is a primal reassurance in being touched, in knowing that someone else, someone close to you, wants to be touching you. There is a bone-deep security that goes with the brush of a human hand, a silent, reflex-level affirmation that someone is near, that someone cares.” -Jim Butcher

“‘How can I support you?’ is a question that works in almost every situation imaginable. It preempts judgment and assumptions while oozing humility. Often the person won’t have an immediate answer. If they look stunned, I suggest something like: ‘It’s okay if you don’t have an answer or don’t need anything right now; the offer’s open for whenever. Just let me know.’ And then use an emoji of some sort or make a face that conveys warmth so they know you mean it. (This could be a unicorn, the two señoritas dancing, or the smiling poo. Up to you.) But here’s the fine print: you have to believe their answer, whatever it is. If they tell you they don’t need anything, you don’t get to push or pressure or demand they give you something to do so you feel less helpless. Remember, this isn’t about you.” -Unknown

“There is a strange moment in time after something horrible happens, when you know it’s true, but you haven’t told anyone yet.” -Barbara Kingsolver

“The world is violent and mercurial — it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.” -Tennessee Williams

@justin_newman

“Breaking free of loneliness and healing our psychological wounds is possible, but it involves a decision — a decision to override the gut instinct telling you to stay away and to play it safe by isolating yourself.” -Guy Winch

“There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.” -William S. Burroughs

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“Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Dare to be loved.” -Sherwood Anderson

{Steel bridge + cherry blossoms via @bethkellmer, Portland sign via @aspensummit, Eagle Creek Trail falls via @spudthesoundguy, long road via @andrewgolesch, receding tide via @aspensummit, Powell’s scene via @nessavay, Mt. Hood nightfall via @jakeegbert, Old Town sign via @mrtommyblades, PDX sunrise via @kyle.pnw, Dog Mountain trail via @brambleworkshop, Haystack Rock via @cameronleeanderson, table for two via @meganjgordon, treehouse via @justin.newman, layer cake via @erkapark — all on Instagram.}

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5 thoughts on “Meanwhile

  1. I enjoyed reading every word of this; it really resonated with me. Admittedly it also made me miss my cat, a lot. I think that touch we crave doesn’t necessarily need to be human. There is something peaceful about the unconditional love of an animal.

    I also really loved the quotes. Thank you for sharing.

    -Justine

    • Thanks for leaving a comment, Justine! You make a very good point about pets. Half the time I think all of my troubles (not really but kinda) would be solved if I just had a puppy to snuggle with at the end of the day.

      • There are always many pets in adoption centers up in need of a loving home! Nothing feels better than knowing you saved a living being 🙂

  2. Is it possible to read something and want to say alot about it but not being able to find words? To read something and have your voice taken from you?

    This post was something like that. I have no word but I want to say alot.

    • Aww, thank you so much for reading/commenting. I often feel that way too — I think it’s one of the reasons I love photography so much. Pictures help bridge the gap when words fail.

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